Technology and the rise of various online platforms present massive opportunities to help promote gender equality. On the other hand, they can likewise be utilized to subject people, mostly women, to online or virtual sexual harassment. In the digital age, harassers typically misuse technology to commit sexual harassment.
The Rise of Remote Work and Virtual Sexual Harassment
A lot of people assume that harassment only happens in shared, physical workspaces. However, the harasser and the person being harassed do not need to be in the same place at the same time for harassment to occur. In remote working environments, virtual harassment may include any of these behaviors from coworkers, employers, recruiters, or supervisors, among others:
- Inappropriate or unsolicited photos, videos, jokes, posts, comments, etc., sent through texts, chat messages, or email.
- Unwelcome commentary on someone’s appearance in video meetings.
- Making discriminatory or sexual comments in video meetings.
- Circulating rumors or comments about the targeted individual’s sexuality or sexual activities.
- Text messages or emails requesting sexual favors.
- Sharing or threatening to share sexually explicit photos or videos without the consent of the person.
- Stalking the targeted individual on social media.
- Taking and sharing screenshots, audio clips, or video clips, without the other person’s consent.
- Flashing (revealing intimate body parts intentionally) someone during a video meeting.
- Misusing monitoring tools or software to stalk the targeted individual.
Put simply, behaviors based on sex or gender that create a hostile working environment, whether in person or virtually, are sexual harassment. With more and more companies opting to work remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more crucial than ever for company sexual harassment policies to clearly ban harassment across all digital media and communication methods to account for the various ways individuals interact virtually.
Why Does Virtual Sexual Harassment Happen?
While verbal and physical sexual harassment usually occurs because of the harasser’s need to intimidate, control, or humiliate another individual, virtual sexual harassment may happen due to other reasons. For instance, posting sexual information or explicit photos is usually intended to shame the targeted person. Some harassers may have a grudge against the target person that turned them down in person, so they are retaliating online.
Because the harasser and the target individual do not see each other physically, this makes it easier for anyone to say or do things they wouldn’t have done in person. What’s worse, virtual sexual harassment may involve multiple harassers intent on ganging up on the target individual simply because it’s easier to do so.
Seek Legal Guidance from an Experienced San Francisco Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorney
Words, photos, comments, and even memes and GIFs can be harassing, whether in a physical or virtual workplace. If you have been sexually harassed in your workplace, whether remotely or in person, do not hesitate to get in touch with Minnis & Smallets. Our San Francisco workplace sexual harassment attorney can assess the harassment incidents and give you legal advice on how to proceed with your case. Contact us online or call 1-415-551-0885 to arrange your consultation.